Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 25th 2017 Contents news A9
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Minister on tertiary sector:
Impossible to continue wholesale funding
Although the current administration
has continued to place much emphasis
on the provision of education across
all levels, senior government officials
have said that it is simply impossible to
continue the wholesale funding for the
tertiary sector due to several pressing
Chief among the reasons was the current
economic constraints which necessitat-
ed an urgent revision of the Government
Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE)
programme and the fact that that a com-
prehensive review had not been undertaken
since its introduction in 2004.
GATE was a replacement for the UNC's
Dollar-for-Dollar Education Plan which
started in 2001.
Blasting the People's National Movement
(PNM) for its part in what he dubbed an
"erosion" of decades of progress of the ed-
ucation system, former Tertiary Education
Minister Fazal Karim yesterday accused
them of successively dismantling the sys-
tem within the last two years.
However, in an immediate rebuttal - Ed-
ucation Minister Anthony Garcia respond-
ed that the PNM remained committed to
providing an education for as they adhered
to the mandate of the 2000 Dakar Com-
mitment to Education for All.
Pointing out that tertiary education par-
ticipation had increased from eight per cent
in 2002 to an estimated 65.23 per cent in
2015, Garcia said the targeted tertiary par-
ticipation rate of at least 60 per cent by 2015
has therefore, been exceeded.
He said, "The current level of tertiary
participation compares favourably with
the rate for developed countries."
Karim argued that the incompetence and negli-
gence of the PNM had brought T&T closer to a failed
state as prior to GATE and Dollar-for-Dollar, many
middle income and working-class families could not
have afforded tertiary education.
This was immediately refuted by Garcia who said,
"In 2016, the GATE Programme was reviewed in order
to ensure sustainability of funding. The National
Consultations on Education and a Task Force were
instrumental in assisting the Government in its
"It was noted that most of the recipients of the
GATE Programme are from families which fall in
the middle to high income groups of the society."
Garcia said declining local and global energy prices
had led to concerns over the sustainability of current
expenditure levels via the GATE Programme.
He added: "Currently, the Government is ex-
periencing significant reductions in revenues and
foreign exchange earnings as a result of the falling
prices of oil and gas."
Garcia said when the GATE Programme was first
introduced, oil prices ranged from US $40 to US$
50 per barrel.
Garcia stressed: "Students whose monthly house-
hold income is less than $10,000 will be fully funded
under the GATE Programme."
"Where the household income is above $10,000
per month but less than $30,000, students will be
eligible for 75 per cent of tuition fees. Students whose
household income exceeds $30,000 per month will
be required to pay 50 per cent of tuition fees"
He went on further that while means testing is
optional; those not wishing to complete the appli-
cation would be required to pay 50 per cent of their
Meanwhile, in order to assist students with tuition
fees if required, the loan ceiling for the Higher Edu-
cation Loan Programme (HELP) was increased from
$25,000 to $35,000 for students studying locally.
The minister said only a small percentage of the
student population, that being three per cent, had
accessed loans in the past.
He said in this regard, Government was guided
by current national economic challenges but had
also agreed to consider a more holistic calculation
of means testing by August 2018, taking into con-
sideration other factors such as the size of student's
household and household assets.
From the inception of the GATE Programme in
2004 up to the 2015/2016 academic year, Gov-
ernment has spent over $6.3 billion covering pro-
grammes that range from Technical and Vocational
Training (TVET) to PhD studies.
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